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Nurse staffing levels require biannual review

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Nurse team staffing levels and skill mix should be reviewed at least twice a year, the Nursing and Care Quality Forum has recommended.

Reporting back to prime minister David Cameron last month, the forum said that it had 'heard, overwhelmingly, that staff are concerned about staffing levels and skill mix', and the impact this has on the quality and safety of care and experience.

Forum chair Sally Brearley (pictured) told Independent Nurse that nurses managing community teams, in particular, were not always in a position to monitor how effectively their team was performing.

'Nurse leaders on boards, and other nurses, must have the tools to assess whether they think they have enough staff to do the job,' she said. 'Those tools aren't always available at the moment. There are gaps in a number of areas, in community care for example. Part of it is down to variability around how teams are assembled.

'It is not a lack of good intentions, it is just harder to develop standardised tools in those (community) settings,' she concluded.

However, in a letter to Mr Cameron, Ms Brearley said staffing levels were only 'part of the picture' in terms of why nursing care is not always as good as it should be.

The forum also criticised the pace at which technology is being introduced to help nurses provide care. 'It cannot be right that delivery drivers for major supermarkets have better technology at their fingertips than many community nurses,' it said.

In addition, community team leaders should not be expected to be 'fully in charge', while simultaneously handling their own patient caseload, the forum said.

'The feedback emphasised the importance of leaders being given the time to effectively undertake their leadership role.'

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